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sabbath JULY 14

Matt. 28:16–20

Introduction The Too Little, Too Late Complex



Have you ever heard the idiom “A day late and a dollar short”? Well, I took the liberty of looking up what it meant. It means that “someone has both missed an opportunity and been inexcusably unprepared for it.” Since a day is a relatively short amount of time and a dollar is a relatively small amount of money, this idiom generally implies that someone is rather close but still not quite good enough to measure up. The phrase can also sometimes be interpreted as a subtle admonition to adequately prepare for and fulfill given responsibilities and others’ expectations.

Tomorrow very well might be too late.

During Jesus’ ministry on earth He commissioned 12 men, inviting them to follow Him so that He could make them “fishers of men.” After His death He gave them a final command—to go into all the world (Matt. 28:16–20).

As Adventist Christians we value prophecy revealed and the three angels’ messages, and much like the disciples and early followers of Jesus after Pentecost, we feel an urgency to proclaim Christ’s death, resurrection, and soon coming. There were no endless meetings on who should go where and say what. The early church gave up their earthly possessions so that they could spread the gospel and tell of Jesus’ return. They knew it was imperative that everyone know about Jesus’ love and sacrifice and how liberating life with Jesus could be.

The disciples spent years with Jesus, not understanding His real purpose. However, after His death and after His ascension, with the Holy Spirit filling their lives, they finally became “fishers of men,” making disciples— even in the face of adversity from within and without. How committed are you to allowing the Holy Spirit to pour into your life so that when you tell your family, friends, and coworkers about Jesus, you aren’t a day late and a dollar short?

As Christians, we must follow Christ and take advantage of every opportunity to lead those in our lives who are lost to the Giver of Life. His name is Jesus, and He longs for you to reveal Him to those inside of the church and to those you meet at your job or on the street. We can only do that if, like the early Christians, we make disciples in our modern age. This week, this very day, we hope you find ways to make the early church’s experience a part of your postmodern way of life. Because the truth is that tomorrow very well might be too late.

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Dawnette Chambers, Round Rock, Texas, USA

sunday JULY 15

Acts 5

Logos Tried and Tested



“It Takes a Village”

There is a proverb that says, “It takes a village,” meaning that the development of a child requires all hands on deck. Participation from the community is essential for growth. In Acts 2 we see an example of this.

The Holy Spirit has filled the upper room, pilgrims to Jerusalem are able to understand the disciples in their own languages, and Peter preaches a mighty sermon. The entire community is engaged. Peter’s sermon is so captivating and convicting that people repent and get baptized. Luke records the sense of awe that everyone feels because of what is taking place (Acts 2:43).

Deceit and dishonesty threaten the foundation of fellowship.

The believers have come together, devoting themselves to “the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (verse 42, NIV). It is the preaching of the gospel and the presence of the Spirit that unite everyone in fellowship. The word that is used for fellowship in the original language is layered with so much meaning. Fellowship is not just limited to contact or intimacy; fellowship implies equality. Everyone brings what they have, and they share it among themselves. Everyone has access to the same thing at the same time, and they take only what they need. This idea of fellowship is so radical because it goes against the selfish proclivities of the sinful heart (Jer. 17:9). Fellowship is hard work, and it is a work that the Spirit alone can do.

The Village Tried (Acts 5)

Later in Luke’s account of the early church, he shares the tragedy of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Right before narrating that incident, Luke tells us of Barnabas, who “owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:37, NASB). The actions of Barnabas are then contrasted to the actions of Ananias and Sapphira. Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of their property (just like Barnabas did), and they laid the proceeds of the sale at the apostles’ feet (as did Barnabas). But Ananias is castigated for holding back a portion of the sale. Peter reprimands him and tells Ananias that he has not lied to man, but he has lied to the Holy Spirit, and upon hearing these words Ananias drops down dead. Three hours later, Peter confronts Sapphira, asks her whether the land was sold for “ ‘such and such a price’ ” (NASB), and she affirms it. Peter then chastises her for testing the Spirit and informs her that the same men that buried her husband are there to bury her as well (Acts 5:7–10).

While this incident seems harsh, it emphasizes the urgency of integrity within the fellowship of believers. The fundamental difference between the account of Barnabas and that of Ananias and Sapphira is that the latter two lied to the Spirit and reneged on a promise. It can be inferred from the text that Ananias and Sapphira had agreed to give the entire portion of the sale of land to the church; instead they only gave a portion of the sale and passed it off as if it were the full cost received. They lied to the Holy Spirit, the Person (and yes the Holy Spirit is a person) who brought unity and equality to the fledgling church.

Peter told them the land was theirs to do with it whatever they wished; they were not forced to commit the entire proceeds to the church, but instead they chose to pass off a portion of the sale as the entirety. Deceit and dishonesty threaten the foundation of fellowship. It was Satan’s deceit and dishonesty in heaven that resulted in a third of the angels rebelling against God. Integrity is vital to the health, growth, and sustainability of the church. While we may be able to present facades of our integrity, we cannot hide from the One who reads our hearts (Jer. 17:10).

The Village Tested

Ananias and Sapphira’s dishonesty has more than serious internal implications for this new group of believers; it also has external ramifications. How should Luke, as the author, relate the shortcomings of the believers of God to those on the outside? Luke is writing a history book, and he does have the option of excluding this story from the record. It is a painful story and a damaging narrative. It could sow discord among the believers, or it could alienate those not part of this Christian movement.

With options before him, Luke decided to remain true to the events of history.

He shows us what can happen when people come together by the leading of the Spirit, yet he also shows us what happens when people forgo the Spirit in pursuit of their own interests. Luke adequately portrays the authenticity of the church. Yes, the church is established by God, but it will have its problems because, at the end of the day, human beings, tainted by sin, make up the church.

The Tried and True Village

True fellowship brings equality. Equality can be sustained only by integrity. The same Spirit that brings us together in fellowship must take hold of our lives and hold us accountable. We must submit everything, including our will and our integrity, to the Spirit, so as not to hinder the work of God. Integrity and authenticity matter both to those within and those outside of the church. Some may believe the church is not transparent enough. While the church is not obligated to report every single misstep, the church has an awesome opportunity to witness to the world of how God can still use and redeem people and institutions that mess up. Authentically and adequately portraying the actions and history of the church speaks more positively to a God who is able use our messes than when we try to redeem our own history.

REACT

1. What could authentic fellowship look like in the twenty-first century?

2. Why is integrity so important to the fellowship of believers?

3. What are some ways the church could authentically represent itself to the world?

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Mark Anthony Reid, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA

monday JULY 16

Matt. 5:16

Testimony Let Your Light Shine



“Christ has made provision that His church shall be a transformed body, illumined with the light of heaven, possessing the glory of Immanuel. It is His purpose that every Christian shall be surrounded with a spiritual atmosphere of light and peace. There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon the heart and lives a life wholly consecrated to God.”1

“There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon the heart and lives a life wholly consecrated to God.”

“Thus it will ever be when the Spirit of God takes possession of the life. Those whose hearts are filled with the love of Christ, will follow the example of Him who for our sake became poor, that through His poverty we might be made rich. Money, time, influence—all the gifts they have received from God’s hand, they will value only as a means of advancing the work of the gospel. Thus it was in the early church; and when in the church of today it is seen that by the power of the Spirit the members have taken their affections from the things of the world, and that they are willing to make sacrifices in order that their fellow men may hear the gospel, the truths proclaimed will have a powerful influence upon the hearers.”2

“The indwelling of the Spirit will be shown by the outflowing of heavenly love. The divine fullness will flow through the consecrated human agent, to be given forth to others.”3

“Christ does not bid His followers strive to shine. He says, Let your light shine. If you have received the grace of God, the light is in you. Remove the obstructions, and the Lord’s glory will be revealed. The light will shine forth to penetrate and dispel the darkness. You cannot help shining within the range of your influence.”4

REACT

How do we receive the grace of God so that His light will be in us? What kinds of things can we do on campus or in the workplace to let our light shine before others?

1. Ellen G. White, Counsels for the Church, p. 99.

2. Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 71.

3. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 419.

4. Ibid., p. 420.

Yolanda Pugh, Tallahassee, Florida, USA

tuesday JULY 17

Acts 2:42–47; 4:1–18; 5:1–11, 29–33, 41, 42

Evidence Meeting the Needs of the Family



The topic of social justice can often unearth hesitance; with great discord limelighting on social fronts, it’s easy to question our need to participate. Once we step outside, however, we are constantly confronted by opposition of all kinds; and for some it’s a conflict that exists within their own homes. Many Christians debate whether we ought to live outside the arena of social justice, but evidence shows we’re already in it. As family in Christ we should be concerned with the plights and oppressions of our brothers and sisters.

Peter and John made it their mission to share the love of Jesus to a broken world: through fellowship, they created genuine, ongoing relationships and were even willing to face arrest and death in defense of providing to the new believers healing, repentance, and salvation (Acts 4:1–18, 5:33, 41, 42). The believers reciprocated God’s love in action, “selling their possessions” and “distributing the proceeds” (Acts 2:45, ESV) so that the disciples, too, could move freely in Christ.

As family in Christ we should be concerned with the plights and oppressions of our brothers and sisters.

Ananias and Sapphira presented a severe contrast: they lied, saying that they were giving all the proceeds of their sold land to the disciples when truly they “kept back” a portion of it for themselves (Acts 5:1–11, NASB). In verse 2, the Greek word translated “kept back” means “to abandon,”* and they did exactly that. They abandoned the call to put others ahead of their personal desires, they abandoned the reverence of God through their dishonesty to Him and their disloyalty to their family in Christ, and they abandoned their reflection of the Savior.

In heaven Christ saw our need: He left His comfort zone, communed with us, fought against the injustice of Satan our oppressor, willingly died so that we can live justified in Him, and continues to be our Great Advocate. May Christ’s example teach us to not merely win souls for Him but also guide them to restoration through our love, fellowship, and sacrifice.

REACT

How can your experiences create platforms for building relationships and sharing Christ’s love?

*Strong’s Concordance, s.v. “3557. nosphizó,” http://biblehub.com/greek/3557.htm.

Monique Marisa Norris, Kissimmee, Florida, USA

wednesday JULY 18

Acts 2:42

How-to Less Talking, Acts 2:42 More Walking



The well-known quote “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words” is often attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. This gives us the impression that the gospel should not be primarily bellowed from the top of the steeple but actively prevalent in the streets. However, some have traded in their walking shoes for pew cushions. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, 20 tells us to “ ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ ” (NIV). Jesus told us to “Go,” not “Sit.”

We talk a big game, but can we back it up?

We talk a big game, but can we back it up? Better yet, how do we live out the Great Commission in our lives? I believe the answer is in Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (NIV). Many “devoted” Christians would point out that the text said “teaching.” Yes, people should be taught what they don’t know, but that is not all the text says. It also uses the word fellowship. Fellowship is not only what we do in the “fellowship hall” while eating at church; fellowshipping according to Acts is blessing others with what you have. It is not blessing others with what you have to spare but blessing them even if it is your last. The question is, How do we fellowship with one another?

First, you must be aware of the needs around you (verse 45). Get active in your community by always looking for ways to help. There is always someone around trying to make the place they live in better. Park cleanups, food drives, repainting store walls, feeding the homeless, back-to-school drives—the possibilities are endless, if only we were to open our eyes to the needs around us.

Second, fellowshipping is also fun. So if you have friends who do not know much about God, go hang out with them before bringing them to church on youth day. The believers in Acts “broke bread together,” and that was their fellowship. Last, we have the permission to teach. Whether we are teaching them ourselves or bringing them to Bible study, AY, youth group, or youth day, whatever the teaching looks like, it will be better received because “people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

REACT

1. What can you do in your community?

2. What recreational activity can you invite a friend to?

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Daniel Madden, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

thursday JULY 19

Acts 2:46, 47

Opinion Scarcity in Community



Many of the conflicts and anxieties we face in today’s world and in the church are rooted in a fear of scarcity. The fear that we may not be smart enough, cool enough, strong enough, rich enough, righteous enough, attractive enough, or educated enough infects us all at some point in time. Too often, a fear of scarcity not only works to eat away at our individual well-being but also causes our communities to crumble. We have all been tempted to question our and others’ value and worthiness and to avoid the practice of empathy. As a result, our universal longings to belong, be valued, and have what we need to survive go unmet.

We should not see ourselves as inferior or superior to each other based on our accomplishments, culture, religion, or ethnicity.

In the story of the early church in Acts, we begin to see the gospel of Christ radically transforming ancient Greco-Roman society. We watch the outpouring of the Holy Spirit dismantle societal division along religious, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, gender, and class lines. Acts 2:44–47 says that “all the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (NIV).

Almost instantaneously, preaching Jesus led to a fuller, inclusive community where they had all things in common. This shows that a right understanding of who Jesus is should heal our scarcity in community. The gospel of Christ is that we are all God’s children called to and worthy of a mutually sacrificial relationship with Him and with each other. We should not see ourselves as inferior or superior to each other based on our accomplishments, culture, religion, or ethnicity. When preached in truth, the gospel breaks down social barriers and a false sense of insufficiency. Therefore, this story suggests that our social and material scarcity in Christian community may be linked to a lack of clarity about the life and message of Jesus Christ.

REACT:

1. What thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors perpetuate scarcity of community in the church?

2. What prevents you from being empathic to yourself and to others?

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Ailiana K. Denis, Chicago, Illinois, USA

friday JULY 20

Acts 2:44, 45; 4:34, 35; 3:12–26; 4:1–18

Exploration I Will Be the One



CONCLUDE

Fellowship and making disciples seem to be the big driving forces for the life of the early church. They gave all they could for the cause of Christ. More than two thousand years later, the goal is still the same: to let the world see Jesus—to let the people of a dying and doomed world know that their Savior is alive. And He desires to commune with them and is one day coming back to claim them as His own. As Adventists we believe that we are tasked with a special message to this generation. How can we reach people for Christ in a world inundated with so many things pulling them away from Jesus?

CONSIDER

CONNECT

Matthew 28:16–20.

Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 28–33, 57, 64–66.

Bob Deffinbaugh, “6. Characteristics of a Healthy Church,” Studies in the Book of Acts, Bible.org, https://bible.org/seriespage/6-characteristics -healthy-church-acts-241-47.

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Sabrina Washington, Austin, Texas, USA